The Channel Angle: 4 Ways ITSM Partners Can Aid Digital Transformation

‘IT is no longer just a service-and-support function. It has become a strategic partner and priority across the overall business,’ writes Thirdera CEO Jason Wojahn.


[Editor’s note: The Channel Angle is a monthly CRN guest column written by an executive that focuses on the triumphs and challenges that solution providers face. If you are a solution provider executive interested in contributing, please contact managing editor David Harris.]

By Jason Wojahn

Just as computing has gone through three waves, from mainframe to distributed systems to cloud, we’re on the precipice of a third evolutionary phase for technology services partners in the IT service management (ITSM) space.

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The first wave was populated mainly by small, boutique providers. They were good at what they did but limited in their ability to scale, especially as the industry transformed in concert with those macro trends and cloud’s impacts were felt throughout IT.

Enter the second wave: Larger, venture-backed service providers that were able to grow rapidly as platforms themselves underwent significant changes as they invested in robust capabilities for the cloud age.

[Read A Previous Channel Angle Column: How To Achieve Omni-Channel Success by Harmonizing Vendor Solutions]

We’re now underway with the third wave: Elite, global-scale providers who work as trusted, strategic partners with their customers. This is a crucial shift because those customers are pursuing ambitious digital transformation agendas. They need help in order to achieve their goals.

Think about what your average IT department must navigate these days. We’re in the midst of a Renaissance-like period of technology fueled by the cloud. It’s incredibly exciting, but it can also be overwhelming and cause organizational inertia. The ITSM and other platforms they depend on release new features with dizzying regularity; new capabilities and services hit the market daily; data continues to grow exponentially year after year; and the demand from the overall business to move as fast as possible is intense. To put it mildly, it’s a lot, and it’s a compounding issue.

It’s also where the modern partner steps in. We see several overlapping ways in which partners can level up and help their customers transform and innovate.

1. Work in cycles, not on projects.

In the “old days” of the partner ecosystem, there was a basic pattern of engagement: Customer hires partner to implement technology XYZ, the work gets completed by an agreed-upon date, and that’s it. Call us when it’s time to upgrade.

That’s an oversimplification, for sure, but it reflects a longstanding tendency to approach technology as a series of one-off projects rather than viewing it as an ongoing journey. The IT brokerage model no longer meets the needs of today’s businesses; most IT teams can handle that on their own perfectly well.

Instead, partners can work with their customers in iterative cycles to help them unlock the transformative potential of their ITSM platform and other technologies. The cyclical approach is much better suited to today’s constantly evolving IT and business landscape. It’s what allows customers and partners to balance the needs of today with the long-term goals of tomorrow. In this model, partners help customers make their most important technology decisions as they build out their strategic roadmap.

What should we do next and why? How do we plan for the future while ensuring the business is successful now? How do we remain agile and avoid lock-in? The modern partner is helping their customers answer these questions in a meaningful way.

2. Provide deep, end-to-end expertise in the platform.

Elite-level partners bring significant acumen and depth of skill with the technologies they serve. Period.

They are the ones who can go into a customer’s environment, do a deep dive on their business and technology portfolio, and then say with confidence: “Based on what we know, here’s what we recommend.” That confidence needs to be earned with real expertise from a partner that knows the ins and outs of the technology they support and can show how the platform can best serve the business’s goals.

Rationalizing new releases and capabilities is a great example of the value of partner expertise. A modern ITSM platform, just like cloud and other technology platforms, is regularly adding and updating new features and services. Then there are the big-bang releases, too. The pace of change can be hard to keep up with for companies who don’t spend all of their time in this space – they’re focused on running their own business. Partners offload that burden for them and help them map new releases to their strategic plan, while ignoring the other stuff.

They don’t just say “here’s a new feature,” either. They say: “here’s something new you can do today that you couldn’t do yesterday.” They map the platform’s capabilities, whether machine learning or new digital workflows or new developer tools, to the company’s short- and long-term goals. The platform becomes a gas pedal for transformation and innovation instead of a brake pedal.

3. Proactively deprecate unnecessary technologies and services.

This is an often overlooked area for partners and customers alike: Innovate, yes, but also deprecate. Customers end up spending down two important finite resources – money and time – when they never take stock of the technology and services portfolio and wind down the stuff they no longer need.

Agility requires streamlining your portfolio to avoid technical bloat and debt. Getting rid of legacy service catalog items that no longer serve a particular business need is a good, straightforward example.

This can be hard for customers to do on their own; they get concerned that they might not see all the dependencies, or are too invested in a particular technology or process to pare it back. Partners with that deep acumen and trusted advisor status play a crucial role here, too.

4. Help customers understand their data.

Data is the currency of modern IT, but it presents plenty of challenges to go along with the outsized opportunities. It resides in so many different places, and is constantly generated by so many devices, applications, and users. And, as I mentioned above, it never stops growing.

Yet it’s not enough to simply help a customer collect or store data anymore. It’s just about the relationship of your data to your workflows. It’s critical to be able to empower clients to understand their data, and the context relationships of that data. Where did it come from? What does it mean? Is it interoperable across systems or environments? What can we learn from this that will inform future decisions or unlock greater levels of automation? Put another way, it’s not enough to simply say: We have a lot of data. It’s far more impactful to be able to say: This is the business value generated by this data and here is how we are strategically using our data and those relationships to unlock automation and new and emergent technologies to the benefit for our customers or our company.

And that reflects the overarching trend here: IT is no longer just a service-and-support function. It has become a strategic partner and priority across the overall business. Modern partners must do the same.

Jason Wojahn is the CEO of Thirdera, a ServiceNow partner based in Leesburg, Virginia.